Friday, July 16, 2010

Blueberry Blogging

I can't believe that I've gotten to the middle of July without making a single Summer fruit pie yet. It's quite shameful, but I guess I'll chalk it up to the fact that I've spent my berry-baking days this year trying out a ton of new and unique recipes that I had found after buying tons of the local fruit at the market. Pie can be so, well, mundane... crust, filling, crust, voila. Not much variation on that front. But bars, cakes, bread, and banana loaves?... those can be messed with. And I did!

So when I finally got down to the business of "pie", I still had a large bag of perfectly delicious blueberries sitting in my freezer that I had been dipping into for periodic smoothies and general brain-freeze inducing snacks. The only reason that I was originally hoarding them, though, was so I could try my hand at making my very first blueberry pie! I know... how could I have been baking for over 15 years and never made a simple, blueberry pie? Well, I think it has something to do with the ridiculous ideals I set myself surrounding the end product. Even though I am not really a fan of blueberry pie (I'd eat it, but if there was cherry or apple there too they'd be my first picks), I had memories of the kind of pastry that I can only really describe as "diner pie". It was the type of dessert where the filling was cohesive, but not like balls in purple Jell-O, and not spilling out in a juice-puddle and leaving diners with an empty crust. Getting that balance with berry pies is always so tricky to me! After what felt like eons of Googling and cross-referencing millions of recipes, I settled on a blend that seemed to give me more or less what I was looking for. Along the way (on Baking 911) I found something interesting, too (which is probably the culprit of runny-pie syndrome): blueberry skins have something called oxalic acid in them. While I've only known it as a causer of kidney stones and other un-fun side effects, it also attacks starch in it's raw form. Meaning that thickeners like the traditional cornstarch common in pie will be rendered more or less useless.

Okay, so cook the berries we must. But I really didn't want something like blueberry paste in a pie crust. I opted to cook some of them, though, just enough to give me something to add my sugar and thickeners to (I used a blend of cornstarch and tapioca flour). To accent the perfect blueberry flavour, I finally got to break out a combination of citrus that I had been dying to try: orange and lime! Instead of water in the starch slurry, I reamed an orange and mixed it with the starches, and I also stirred in the zest of both fruits. In the crust as well I wanted a little touch of tangy citrus going on, so I used the rest of the orange juice as the liquid and a little of the rinds made their way into the dough too!

The pie baked like a dream - no boil-over, no runny filling, and a perfect amount of whole berries to squish deliciously with every bite. Even my lattice crust looked great, if I do say so myself!

Amusingly enough, two days after I made this pie (and saw it demolished) I received a little bit of info from a B.C. Blueberry birdie about a contest they're running this Summer for food bloggers! For cash even!! If you're a Canadian food blogger pop on over to their site and check it out between now and August 15 and  join my pie in the fray!

Blueberry-Citrus Pie
Makes 1 pie, 10 servings
3/4 cups flour, plus extra for rolling
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp lime zest
1/2 cup Earth Balance "Buttery Sticks", cold and cubed
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
3 tbsp cold, fresh orange juice
2 tbsp cold, fresh lime juice
4 cups blueberries
1 tbsp water
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp tapioca flour (not granules)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 tsp grated lime zest
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp cold water
  1. In a large bowl combine flours and zests, whisking well.
  2. Cut in the Earth Balance and shortening until a coarse-meal texture forms.
  3. Add orange and lime juices and gently mix to form a flaky pastry dough.
  4. Divide into two portions - one 1/3 of the mixture, the other 2/3 of the dough.
  5. Wrap dough pieces in cling wrap and chill 30 minutes.
  6. Roll out the larger portion of dough, fit it into a 9" pie plate and set into the refrigerator while preparing filling.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400F and place the oven rack in the lowest position.
  8. Combine 1 cup of blueberries, water and the sugar in a small pot and place over medium heat.
  9. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is melted - 5 minutes.
  10. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch, tapioca flour and orange juice.
  11. Stir starch mixture into the cooking berries and cook gently until the mixture thickens and turns clear.
  12. Remove from heat and stir in the zests and nutmeg, then fold in remaining berries and pour into the pie shell.
  13. Roll out remaining pastry and cut strips from it.
  14. Brush edges of dough with the cornstarch mixture.
  15. Weave a lattice pattern with the pastry strips on top of the mixture and brush with remaining cornstarch mixture.
  16. Place pie on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Reduce temperature to 375F.
  17. Bake 40-45 minutes. Cool completely (minimum 12 hours) before cutting.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 319.0
Total Fat: 15.9 g
Cholesterol: 3.8 mg
Sodium: 100.7 mg
Total Carbs: 41.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.0 g
Protein: 3.0 g